Gridskipper | Zach Everson

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A Midwestern ‘hello’ from Indianapolis

Throw the ball through the hole and drill Peyton Manning in the head.

Throw the ball through the hole and drill Peyton Manning in the head.

Shortly after 10 a.m. today I’ll be hopping on a Greyhound bus for a four-day visit to Indianapolis. Louisville’s been a great jumping-off point for exploring cities in this part of the United States—I’ll be making my third trip down to Nashville in October and, boy, that Chicago city’s something, ain’t it?—and locals here have spoken highly about the Indiana capitol (there’s often envy in their voices).

I’ll be at the Colts-Packers NFL preseason game Friday night and the Red Bull Indianapolis MotoGP Sunday afternoon, visiting breweries, restaurants, and museums throughout my stay. Follow along in real time (Eastern Time Zone, even!) at

And for a sneak peak, read this article on Indianapolis’s bars I wrote for Gridskipper when the city hosted the Final Four last year.

Thanks to Morgan Greenlee and the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association for sponsoring my trip.

2010 travel highlights: Beijing, the Big Island of Hawaii, and a new travel buddy

A trip to San Diego in June marked my daughter's first dip in the Pacific Ocean.

A trip to San Diego in June marked my daughter’s first dip in the Pacific Ocean.

Just over a week into 2010, I became a dad. During the year I realized though that any concerns I had about parenthood—and my new editor-in-chief gig at, which I also started in January—impacting my travel were unfounded.

Here are my travel highlights for 2010 (and while my daughter didn’t go on all of these trips with me, she did make it to 14 states and Washington, DC in her first year):

  • In February I visited the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach and wrote about its teen club for Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, enRoute, and one of my rare visits to a spa for UpTake.
  • A road trip to Milwaukee and Chicago in March marked my daughter’s first trip out of Kentucky; I talked about the experience on a podcast for UpTake and mentioned our Chicago hotel room’s wonderful view in enRoute.
  • As much as I enjoy traveling, it’s nice when a big event comes to me. In May it was the Kentucky Derby, which I wrote about for BlackBook and oversaw’s best week of traffic ever (November’s Breeders’ Cup did well too).
  • While family was the focus of my June visits to San Diego (brother’s wedding) and Kamiah, ID (to see my grandmother), I wrote about San Diego restaurant Jsix’s chef’s kitchen experience for BlackBook.
  • In June I made it back to New York City for TBEX, a travel bloggers conference, and finally got to meet in person a lot of folks I’d only known on the tubes. They were terribly disappointing exceeded high expectations.
  • Coming from a small family (no aunts or uncles), my wife’s family’s annual reunion just outside of Morgantown, WV is a can’t miss—I’m serious.
  • In Columbus, Ohio for my brother-in-law’s wedding, I stayed in a hotel where James Thurber use to live.
  • In August I flew to the The Big Island of Hawaii on assignment for enRoute to take a fine art photography class with Photo Safari Hawaii.
  • Later that month Las Vegas was the destination for another enRoute assignment, this time to take a poker lesson from two-time World Series of Poker champ Mark Seif.
  • I wrote about looking out over Gerald Ford’s grave site from my hotel room in Grand Rapids, Mich. for UpTake and visiting the art fair with the world’s largest prize (if not the best art) for Gridskipper.
  • On Columbus Day weekend we trekked to Watoga State Park in West Virginia for another of my wife’s family reunions (it’s a big clan).
  • At Thanksgiving I returned to my hometown of Reading, Mass. for the first time in 17 months, the longest I’d ever gone without a visit; I reviewed the accommodations at my parents’ house for UpTake (executive summary: meh).
  • For the second year in a row, I visited China with the Ritz-Carlton (this time it was Beijing); I won’t complain if trips to China with that hotelier become an annual tradition. Culinary highlights already have been posted on Gridskipper.
  • It was fantastic to get back to Washington, DC and see our friends. I wrote our stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington DC about for UpTake.
  • For the third time in four years, both my wife’s family and mine gathered in the neutral playing location of Deep Creek Lake Maryland for Christmas.

My Kentucky Derby coverage roundup

Watching Kentucky Derby 136 from the roof of Churchill Downs, mint julep in hand.

Watching Kentucky Derby 136 from the roof of Churchill Downs, mint julep in hand, one of the rare moments when I wasn’t tethered to my MacBook Pro.

And I’m spent.

The seven days leading up to the Kentucky Derby is the most exciting week of the year in Louisville. But it was also the most exhausting.

As editor-in-chief, I oversaw‘s coverage of the city’s signature event. We had five writers (including me) at Churchill Downs for the Derby and also dispatched writers to 10 of the city’s biggest Derby parties (I reported from the Playboy Celebrity Lounge–funny how that gig fell to the person making the assignments). Our treatment of the parties included a preview of each one the day before, live updates to our Twitter feed and Facebook fan page with photos from the event (yes, using and a review the following day.

At Churchill Downs, two of’s writers focused on the races, one covered the infield and other lifestyle stories and one contributed live sketches. Our cartoonist was walking around Churchill Downs, drawing in her notepad and snapping pictures of her finished work on her cell phone, which she then e-mailed to me to post for her on the website. Unfortunately a technical problem caused many of the sketches not to arrive in my e-mail inbox until 11 p.m. Regardless, it was a different way of reporting on an event that draws so much media attention and was well received.

As for my writing, 2010 is the 40th anniversary of Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” in which the Louisville native birthed gonzo journalism at the track in his hometown. My plan was to take passages from his article and see how they stand up 40 years later, posting live throughout Derby day. Alas, had two technical glitches (the influx of traffic led the site to briefly crash twice and the RSS feed from the site to our Facebook fan page done broke). Those issues, along with my responsibility for posting the cartoons, promoting the other articles online, answering questions from the writers and following up with PR reps on party credentials kept me mostly tethered to my computer in the media center. I did manage to post a bunch of articles though, mostly of photos, and take notes for the Thompson piece, which I’ll either run as a feature on or a series of smaller posts (granted it was pre-Internet, but Thompson’s Derby article wasn’t published until a month after the race either).

The results? Traffic for blew up. The site had its seven best days ever in terms of visits, getting triple it’s non-Derby week best on race day itself. We also increased our fans on Facebook by more than 10 percent that week, which should lead to sustained growth in that all-important local audience. While we attracted more non-local traffic than usual because of Derby, Louisvillians flocked to the site–the average visitor from the city spent 4:44 on the site, reading 3.93 pages a visit. Between the festivities at Churchill, the parties and other Derby-related events, posted more than 150 articles about the Kentucky Derby in the past three weeks, as well as several hundred Tweets and updates to our Facebook fan page.

And as if that wasn’t enough work Derby week, I wrote a couple of posts for both BlackBook magazine’s website and Gridskipper. For BlackBook, I interviewed two Derby insiders. And for Gridskipper, I wrote about where to score two essentials: good food and easy sex.

Check below the jump for the complete list of articles I’ve written on the 2010 Kentucky Derby (so far).

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Where to find cheap beer, hookers, and gay cowboys two-stepping in Austin: I’m contributing to Gridskipper again

Gridskipper: After hours at Austin's SXSWIf I may be so bold as to quote a blog post I wrote last month about the relaunch of Gridskipper, the site on which I got my start travel writing:

Writing for Gridskipper was one of my favorite gigs; I’m yet to find another travel publication that will let me cover where to score crack, day laborers and tuna tartar.

Last week I returned to Gridskipper as a contributor (which was unexpected when I wished its new editor, Gabe Ulla, well last month). In my first piece back I reviewed venues where attendees at South By Southwest (SXSW) can find cheap booze, tasty tacos, fine wine, straight cowboys doing the two-step, gay cowboys doing the two-step, delicious kebabs, and hookers–so pretty much all of life’s essentials:

Gridskipper: After hours at Austin’s SXSW

Writing and researching the piece (somehow I missed the gay two-stepping cowboys when I was in Austin lat October), was a blast–it’s good to be back contributing regularly to Gridskipper again.

‘So, who do you write for these days?’

I’ve been asked that question a few times recently (and not just by my parents, who I think might be happy if I enrolled in the Bloomingdale’s executive training program).

For blogs, I have regular gigs writing about travel for UpTake and and I contribute to BlackBook, usually about travel and culture. And, there’s that editor-in-chief thing. I also manage the web presence of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (I reckoned I should put my blogging and social media power to a good use, beyond giving advice on where to go and what to drink). And, for fun, there’s my new Tumblr blog. I’ll get all meta too and mention this site, which is now eight years old.

[Update March 8, 2010: I’m contributing to Gridskipper again too.]

In print, I contribute to Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, enRoute.

Gridskipper is back

Gridskipper logoLooks like Gridskipper, the blog formerly owned by Gawker Media where I got my start travel writing, just relaunched with Gabe Ulla as its new editor.

Writing for Gridskipper was one of my favorite gigs; I’m yet to find another travel publication that will let me cover where to score crack, day laborers and tuna tartar (to say nothing of recreating The Brady Bunch’s experience in Hawaii).

Best of luck to Gabe and the irreverent travel guide.

(Via Katherine Spiers via John Rambow)

Apparently I’m worth following, if only on Twitter

Thanks to Tim Shisler and Written Road, a blog on travel writing, for including me as a person you should follow on Twitter.

Should you want to take Written Road’s advice, my Twitter profile is at If you already have a Twitter account and are logged in to it, select the link to my profile and then select Follow under my picture in the upper left corner. And you can create a Twitter account at

Incidentally I’m doubly indebted to Written Road as it’s where I first read of the Gridskipper gig. The blog is a must read for travel writers.

Parlaying DC’s hipster-preppy feud into cash

My post about Late Night Shots, a preppy, invite-only social network, had the most traffic of all of Gridskipper’s Washington, DC, updates last month, thereby earning me a nice little monetary bonus.

The dynamic of Late Night Shots is pretty interesting—it’s essentially an extension of a southern college fraternity lifestyle.

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